ISLAMABAD – Accepting an offer from Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has announced convening of National Energy Conference in Lahore on April 9.

The conference is an effort to discuss various possible solutions to the energy crisis, which has stifled the national life and invited the public fury across the country.

The return of long dark hours in past some days has brought along a new wave of violent protests in various parts of the country over growing duration of power outages  particularly in the most populous province of Punjab. Earlier, Punjab chief minister had warned to lead a public long march to the federal capital for what he said was insensitivity of the centre and a discriminatory attitude towards the province regarding national distribution of electricity.

According to a PM House spokesperson, officials from all the provinces and other stakeholders would attend the energy moot.

Talking to media persons on Saturday at Chaklala Air Base before leaving for China to attend Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference, Prime Minister Gilani said the federal government has accepted the invitation of the Punjab chief minister to host the energy conference in Lahore.

Terming it as a positive sign, Gilani said all stakeholders have been invited to this important gathering and they must give their input because it was in the national interest to solve this problem. He mentioned that business community in Punjab was facing energy shortage and voicing their concern over it, therefore, the province was selected for holding the conference. The conference in Lahore would give the message to the people that government is serious about resolving the issue, he added. The prime minister has already directed the technical sub-committee of the Energy Committee to remove bottlenecks in import of Liquefied Natural and Petroleum Gas to help the country meet its energy needs.

On Friday, the prime minister resorted to presenting his usual excuse by claiming that his government inherited power shortage and that the country was facing loadshedding because of the wrong policies of the previous governments.

Instead of telling what his own government did about the energy maladies, he was satisfied at taking refuge in history and portraying bringing in of Independent Power Producers (IPPs) as an accomplishment of first Benazir government in 1994. He lamented criticisms at this ‘achievement’ of his party’s former leader. He even said that one major cause of present energy shortage was making of corruption cases against Benazir Bhutto and taking the matter to the courts. This, he said, scared away the IPP investors, forcing them to flee Pakistan.

In his Saturday’s talk with the media at Chaklala Airbase, PM Gilani reiterated that only parliament would decide about the parameters of the country’s foreign policy in future and the country’s role in the ongoing war on terror and relations with United States and Nato and Isaf. He assured to fully address the reservations of opposition parties on the recommendations of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS).

Gilani pointed out that after the Salala checkpost incident, the government acted swiftly and shut down the Nato supplies and got the Shamsi Airbase vacated from the US. He said the PCNS unanimously chalked out recommendations for new terms of engagement with the US and Nato and expressed the confidence that the parliament would also adopt the same with consensus.

Talking about his two-day China visit, Gilani told the mediapersons that Boao Forum was an important platform with lot of opportunities and would open new vistas of economic cooperation with the regional countries.

The prime minister will address the opening session of the Boao Forum, which will be attended by political, business and academic leaders from across the globe. He will also meet with chief executives and heads of different financial institutions and apprise them about the potential that Pakistan offers for investment.

On the sidelines of the forum, the prime minister will meet the Vice Premier of China to discuss measures for further promoting cooperation in the fields of economy, energy, infrastructure, defense and education including culture. He will also meet his Kazakh counterpart to review the progress regarding the decisions taken during his visit to the country last year. The discussions are likely to focus on energy sector, TAPI, agriculture, aviation and defence sectors. The prime minister’s meeting with Italian PM will focus on promotion of bilateral relations, trade, and science and technology.

Minister for Information and Broadcasting Firdous Ashiq Awan, Finance Minister Hafiz Sheikh and Minister for Water and Power Naveed Qamar are accompanying the PM.